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What Does a Growth Product Manager Do?

You may have noticed a new job term that has been surfacing lately: "growth product manager". What exactly is a "growth product manager" and what do they do anyway?

However, the more important question to be asking is, "Why is there such a large demand for someone who matches the required skillsets for a position that is so nascent?"

While this article may read like a "growth product manager job description", the takeaway from this article is that if you are in charge of any important operation within an organization (it could be an Enterprise or a startup), you should understand why having such a team member with that specific skill set is paramount. Because if you don't understand the importance of having a Product Manager who specializes in Growth on your team, it's highly probable that your competition does and will waste no time using it against you. By now, I should have your undivided attention to why this is so incredibly important to "move the needle" on your most-important metrics with the right professional on board.

In this article, you will understand:

  • what exactly is a Growth Product Manager.

  • how they fit inside your organization?

  • how to spot a high-quality growth product management professional to onboard them onto your team.

  • and finally, how do you know that you need one within your organization.

With that said, let's get started.

What Makes Growth PM Different from Your Typical PM?

Your product management professional who specializes in Growth is quite frankly someone who makes and implements growth-oriented decisions around your product. However, that may sound too simplified of an explanation of what a growth product management professional does.

More closely, they:

  • are constantly conducting experiments on which features or which aspects of the product are generating the right amount of metrics (or at the right amount of rate of return) for the product to achieve or advance organizational goals.

  • constantly monitoring any and all aspects that deal with specifically growth (if you are involved with SaaS, they are more involved with reducing churn).

  • are constantly interacting with several different professionals of different skill sets because they are required to gather "buy-in" for their growth experiments for the product or selected feature.

For someone to be successful at this occupation, they have to be constantly experimenting to see what works and what doesn't. This greatly differs from your traditional product manager who is more of a craftsperson who is rigid in their processes, development cycles, and their iterations from their planning. The growth product management professional is more focused on building products that achieve a certain growth metric for the organization.

This doesn't mean that the growth product management professional is better than the core product management professional but it does mean that they have separate focuses.

One (growth product management professional) is driven through experiments while the other (traditional product management professional) is driven by delivering longer-term customer value by building a well-structured product and following through a product development roadmap. Though these 2 professionals may seem like polar opposites, when combined together and they minimize their disagreements to agree on a common goal, the best scenario is that you have a product that is following the product roadmap while implementing a growth experiment that can help add a higher unprecedented amount of end-users.

A Need for Speed and Constant Experiments and How to Handle Clashes

I'll paraphrase the following saying from this article:

If these 2 professionals resembled cars:

"The traditional PM would resemble a durable SUV that you can ride in a cross-country trek while your growth product management professional would resemble more of a racecar that you can race along the track." As you can see, these 2 cars (metaphors for 2 different professionals) are very different in nature. Therefore, what do you do to minimize clashes with the growth product management professional with not just the traditional product manager but with everyone on the team?

Beware of the Clashes

A great Growth PM knows how to handle different personalities and biases - especially given that most of these people have past experiences in starting companies where they had to work with different people. A proficient Growth PM is usually speaking with various members throughout your organization. They are speaking with developers, marketers, content creators, and if your organization has one (your sales team). Because of this, you need a proficient Growth PM who can also manage other people. I've talked about how you need a product manager who can have stable conversations with people within your team more in this article. In fact, it's the bell-weather to gauge if you have a competent manager overall.

Later on, I will discuss the 2 main traits that you need to look for in a Growth PM so you know that you are onboarding the right Growth PM into your organization.

How a Growth PM Can Benefit Your Organization Overall

So, I've talked about:

  • briefly on "growth product manager job description" (as in, describing what they do as a job)

  • what makes them different than their traditional product management counterpart and how they differ

  • and how to know if you have a Growth PM can even qualify as the bare minimum as a product management professional: by being able to have conversations.

However, one thing that I haven't talked about is how they benefit your organization overall.

This comes from understanding the importance of Growth in general.

  • Sales/Conversion: the persuasion of converting someone to take the right action.

  • Marketing: finding the right people to persuade to convert to a certain action.

  • Growth: maximizing the number of right people to convert, doing the right action.

In other words,

  • Sales are addition

  • Marketing is a multiplier

  • Growth is exponential.

This is why Growth is such an in-demand profession that many startups are hiring into.

It's a profession that is built-in generating exponential growth while also keeping everything as low-cost as possible as the tactics can continue as long as infinitely possible. Now, Growth is being combined with Product Management - meaning this professional is responsible for finding growth opportunities within your product so that your product (or selected feature) can bring in more users - or more paying customers - into your organization's funnel. The more that an organization is product-led, the more likely it is that you are going to be searching or training someone in-house to be a Growth PM to fulfill the needed responsibilities required to reach exponential growth. They may clash with nearly everyone within your organization but if they are useful, they should be "moving the needed" on the requested metrics for your organization to grow.

How to Find the Great Growth PM for Your Organization

Now that you understand how your Growth PM can benefit your organization, it's time to know how to spot a great Growth PM for your organization. From my research (that includes this article), there are 2 defining traits that you should look for in a great, well-qualified Growth PM. The first trait is that they are diplomatic. Most Growth PMs have analytical tendencies so they rest on laurels of good research and study habits. A great Growth PM needs to be able to work with differing professionals. They need to be able to communicate their reasoning clearly - while minimizing the in-profession jargon with members of their team. By working and understanding each of a different professional's background and biases, they can be more diplomatic and get approval from the suggested professionals themselves. The second trait is that they are good communicators. This may sound exactly like the same thing but this differs from just being diplomatic. Being diplomatic means reaching an understanding while respecting other people's bias and their concerns. Being a great conversationalist means that they can communicate their ideas clearly and soundly.

There should be any confusion as to what the Growth PM wants or is even saying to the other members. Vice versa, the other members should be not confused by what the Growth PM is asking of them. Together, these traits define a well-qualified Growth PM who - despite their fast-paced nature that could clash with the rest of the team - can also fit and adjust themselves well into your organization.

"How Do I Know that I Need a Growth PM?"

The ultimate question: How do I know that I need such a professional within my organization.

While you thought that this article was going to originally go to be a "growth product manager job description", it also seems like it's a sales letter for one as well. The best way to answer that question is to ask yourself this:

  • "Am I in a startup (a lean organization that is designed to grow rapidly) or is my organization customizing itself to act like a startup so it can reap the benefits of exponential growth?"

If you've answered yes, then the answer is clear. Now, the better question may be "when".

Everyone's situation is different but if you want to know if you should be onboarding a Growth PM into your organization, feel free to schedule a call with me by clicking right here.

We can talk about your situation and see if you are a great fit for a Growth PM or not. Also, if you are not ready for a call with me, feel free to read 4 of the most related articles so you can understand more about product management and how it relates to your organization.

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